Union Pacific Foundation: Grants for Visual Arts

OVERVIEW: Union Pacific Foundation is the philanthropic offshoot of Union Pacific Corporation and Union Pacific Railroad. It focuses on improving and enriching health, human services, and the overall quality of life for the 56 regions on the Union Pacific railway line.

IP TAKE: Union Pacific Foundation places a consistent emphasis on the arts through its directive to “improve and enrich the general quality of life in the community.” Funding for the visual arts is at the top of the foundation's arts giving list, as long as you’re in a community that is “reasonably close” to its railroad lines.

PROFILE: Originally established in 1959, Union Pacific Foundation is the philanthropic offspring of Union Pacific Corporation and Union Pacific Railroad. Its core functionality then was the same as it is now: To distribute funds to “organizations in communities served by Union Pacific.”

There are a lot of those communities radiating out from 56 cities/regions across 22 states. If you’re located in or west of the vertical geographic line of Milwaukee-Little Rock-New Orleans, it's likely that you’re on Union Pacific’s radar. Here’s a map to help you out.

The funds that Union Pacific Foundation distributes flow through its Community-Based Grant Program which recently distributed about $7 million to 980 organizations. The program subdivides its focus into “Community and Civic” and “Health and Human Services.” The foundation’s support of the arts falls under the former.

Union Pacific Foundation seeks to promote “program effectiveness,” and therefore particularly likes its grants to go capacity building, which it describes as “helping new or existing programs reach more people or reach them effectively.” This definition and prioritization opens up a lot of opportunity for a visual arts organization or program seeking support.

By the foundation’s own assessment, the average grant amount for its recipients over the past few years is “less than $10,000.” This is true, but there is also the possibility for far more significant amounts if the partnership is right.

Recent giving in visual arts and the visual arts-inclusive realm reflects this range in dollar amount, as well as a range of distribution across its geographic areas of focus (though there is most certainly a dollar-focus in Nebraska, which is Union Pacific's corporate headquarters). Refreshingly, this is a foundation that gives to range of types of visual arts organizations, rather than strictly to traditional art museums. A sampling of recent visual arts grantees include:

Applications are an open, online process with a mid-August deadline. Union Pacific Foundation points out that it funds its grants with operating profits from its corporate side, not through an endowment, so this might also be a reminder to consider using a train for your next travel adventure.


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